Inner-city kids learn Rassias style

by Michael A> Posey | 8/8/96 5:00am

Daily language drill is a part of the lives of most Dartmouth students. But college students are not the only ones who are attending language drill this summer.

Ten New York City high school students just finished 10 days of intensive French language training -- they took classes, were introduced to the machine-gun style Rassias method and even went on wildlife excursions.

The Rassias Foundation, which was created by French and Italian Professor John Rassias, has for the past four years brought high school students from Harlem's Frederick Douglas Academy to Hanover to polish their French-speaking ability.

The Rassias Foundation is a non-profit College program created to increase interest in second language study and teaching.

The students, whose high school French classes have 25 to 30 students, are able to enjoy close contact with teachers and each other. Frederick Douglas Academy is a school for gifted students in Harlem.

"There is an enormous interest in outreach in languages and community," Rassias said. "This program is closer to our hearts and interests because of the students it serves."

College President James Freedman, referring to the genesis of the Rassias Foundation, told The New York Times three years ago

"I felt guilty that Dartmouth was so far removed from the inner cities," he said.

The program was initiated by Freedman and Frederick Douglas Academy Principal Lorraine Monroe.

"Of all the projects that we have, I can honestly say that this is the most significant," Rassias said.

Rassias, quoting former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, said, "the best hope for the future are our kids."

"Kids will make it happen somehow," he said. "The students from FDA have proven themselves by their applications and achievements. They have extraordinary talent and intelligence."

The students also were introduced to the College through activities like hiking, visiting science labs and visiting Cutter-Shabazz Hall. The group also met with several Dartmouth professors.

Frederick Douglas Academy French teacher Ira Simmonds accompanied this year's group. Simmonds does not teach classes, but said he enjoys being "a spectator and watching the students grow and develop as French students and individuals."

Students and teachers in the Rassias Foundation gave the program rave reviews.

Master Teacher Deb Hahn '90, who is in graduate school for French at Brown University said "What I love about this program is that we are here for [the kids] to learn."

Tiffany Brown, a 14-year old student, said, "I hope ... to transfer those experiences that I have learned here to my French courses at home and French programs I hope to explore."

Fourteen-year-old Bernice Booker said she hopes to be a psychiatrist, stock broker or lawyer, and that the program has helped her plan to use French in the future.

"The program has made it possible for me to express my thoughts in French," she said.

"I found the 10 days very interesting," 15-year old Joy Davis said. "I was able to improve my French, and I learned how to pay attention and cooperate with others."

The one thing almost everyone agreed on was that the program was intense.

"The experience was overwhelming," 15-year old Janiqua Codrington said.

"The 10 days were long but educational. We've come a long way," she said.

The program is co-sponsored by the Florence J. Gould Foundation, an organization that helps fund French educational programs.

The program is staffed by grants from the Gould foundation and the Rassias program administers those funds for the program.

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